With solar power supplying roughly 40% of Australia’s renewable energy, solar panels are becoming a firm fixture in residential and industrial areas countrywide. The performance of the solar energy system, however, depends largely on how clean your solar panels are, with bird droppings and built-up dirt and debris impacting their efficiency in absorbing UV energy. Here’s a look at why ensuring your solar panels are clean will maximise your return on investment – and how it should be done!
What are the basics of solar panels?
You may know them as solar panels, but the more scientific name is photovoltaic (PV) panels – but it’s all the same thing. Devices that absorb sunlight and then convert this into electricity using technology known as the photovoltaic effect. Unlike non-renewable energy sources, solar power systems generate clean, renewable electricity supply. To take a deeper dive into how solar panels work, here’s a look at how this innovative equipment works:
- Solar cells: Solar panels have multiple solar cells connected in a series or in a parallel configuration to maximise the voltage and current output.
- Inverter: Solar panels will generate direct current (DC) – not typically suitable for most household applications – so an inverter will then convert the DC to alternating current (AC) which can power your home’s devices.
- Grid integration: If you have sufficient solar energy supply and possibly even a surplus, you can feed this excess back into the grid through an integration. This can supply other homes or businesses and earn you money or credits.
Depending on the building’s placement, solar panels can be mounted on the roof or other stable elevation where they will absorb sunlight unimpeded. The electrical wiring is then put in place, and the solar panels are connected to the inverter. The inverter, in turn, is connected to a solar battery for backup storage, and the solar grid.
What factors influence solar panel performance?
Installing a solar panel is not the end of the journey, because while this is a low-maintenance electrical system, you do need to ensure you clean your solar panels for maximum efficiency. Here are some factors that affect the efficiency of your solar panels.
- Intensity of sunlight: How much sunlight falls on your solar panels will impact their performance and the amount of electricity generation. This means that where you are and the time of year plays an important role – although the sunny Australian climate is certainly more effective than Scandinavian regions for example.
- Shading: You might not realise it, but even partial shading from trees, buildings, and other objects can drastically reduce the efficiency of solar panels. When connected in a series, any sunlight blocked on one panel can impact the entire solar system! Likewise, the angle and orientation of your solar panels can have a significant impact on efficiency.
- Dust, dirt and droppings: Another major contributing factor to solar panel effectiveness is its cleanliness! Any accumulation of dust, dirt – and more importantly, bird droppings – can drastically reduce you’re UV absorption and your energy output. Professional solar panel cleaning and maintenance is an absolute necessity if you’re installing solar panels.
- Damage: In addition to regular cleaning, a professional solar panel cleaning service will inspect your system to check that there is no damage or other replacements necessary. This regular maintenance will also ensure you maximise the efficiency of your solar panels over its entire lifespan.
Why do you need to clean your solar panels regularly?
If you live in a treed area, then you will need to ensure, firstly, your panels aren’t covered in shade and, secondly, no dirt and debris are accumulating on your solar panels. But even more detrimental than this is bird droppings, which can have a long-term impact on the efficiency of your solar energy system.
The uric acid in the bird droppings can harm the photovoltaic modules in solar panels which causes issues such as hot spotting, where the solar cells act as if they are consuming energy instead of generating. Another danger of bird droppings is etching where the outline of the dropping remains even after a thorough cleaning. Bird droppings must be removed quickly to prevent permanent damage.
Other dirt-induced problems to consider include:
- Potential Induced Degradation (PID): If your solar panel surface gets covered in an electrically conductive layer of dirt, it creates a breeding ground for PID which damages the panels.
- Isolation / Insulation Resistance (RISO): This is a test that ensures the electrical connections are working. If it fails, the inverter doesn’t switch on. Dirt and grime can cause unnecessary RISO failure which could impact your electrical production.
Does cleaning solar panels make a difference? Yes, indeed. Below are energy percentages you may lose per quarter if you fail to give your panels the required maintenance.
A recent study found that the accumulation of dust can impact the efficiency of solar modules and panels – in terms of power reduction – by as much as 60%. To give you an idea of the projected energy loss in just two years without cleaning, here are some figures to consider (location and circumstances dependent of course!):
1st year, Q1 = 5% energy loss
1st year, Q4 = 20% energy loss
2nd year, Q1 = 25% energy loss
2nd year, Q4 = 35% energy loss
However, if you clean dirt, dust, and droppings off your solar panels, you will enjoy:
- Increased energy production: A layer of grime or bird droppings – which can be substantial – will reduce the ability of the panels to absorb UV rays and produce electricity. Through a professional cleaning service, you’re getting the most out of your energy production.
- Financial benefits: Solar panels are an investment in both clean energy and long-term savings. The cleaner you keep your solar panels, the bigger your return on investment!
- Longevity: With regular solar panel cleaning, you’re increasing the operational life of the panels so that you’re really getting the most out of your investment. Bird droppings and dirt left uncleaned over time can cause irreversible damage that decreases the lifespan of the panels.
- Maintenance of warranty: Your solar panel manufacturer will provide you with a warranty which includes performance guarantees. However, for the warranty to remain valid, you might need regular maintenance and cleaning of the panels, ideally by a professional service provider.
What is the benefit of professional solar panel cleaning services?
If you’re quite handy around the home and have the right cleaning equipment and products, then you can opt for DIY solar panel cleaning. The reality is that it’s often more beneficial to hire the services of professional solar panel cleaners for several reasons:
- Safety: You need property ladder safety protocols, equipment, and expertise to effectively clean solar panels on the roof.
- Effective: You might clean the solar panels of dust, but getting rid of ingrained dirt – such as bird droppings – without damaging the panels can be tricky if you don’t have the expertise.
- Timing: You need to know the time of day and in which season it’s actually more effective to clean your solar panels or you will have to do it more often.
- Maintenance: Expert solar panel cleaners know what to look out for in terms of solar panel damage and any other preventable challenges.
Fortunately, solar panel cleaning in Brisbane is not an issue as the best in the business, Kleen Genie, is on hand to effectively clean and maintain your solar panels so that you’re enjoying clean energy – from clean panels – for decades to come!